Monday, 15 June 2009

Saving energy

I gave a speech about saving energy the other evening. I compared wasting energy to wearing fur coats.

When I was young a mink or fox fur coat was considered a status symbol. It sounds ridiculous now – a mink coat would be about as stylish as wearing a string of sausages around your neck. But 20 or more years ago it took some hard hitting tactics to get the rich and stylish to change their ways.

The analogy was designed for effect – no one today would consider such attire. But we do boil more water than we need in our kettles, we do waste petrol, and we do leave lights on unnecessarily. I suggested these are today’s fur coats. Acceptable in their time, but an indulgence the world can no longer tolerate.

Anyone who has taken more than a passing interest in this blog will have seen my baby-step interest in petrol consumption. For all you blokes this will have been kindergarten stuff – you were brought up with mpg and 0-60 conversations. I have to confess to having always thought it the dullest topic on the planet. But that’s because I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet: I can afford to think it dull. I live in a country with a good electricity infrastructure, good roads, a reasonably stable economy and petrol prices that I can afford. No wonder I had no interest in miles per gallon.

But the amount of petrol I use is no longer about what I can afford. It’s about what the planet can sustain. The argument isn’t particularly easy, because it’s likely that I won’t feel the effects of peak oil in my lifetime. Stopping me driving where I want to, when I want to, isn’t sustainable either.

So the answers have to be new ones. And there are signs that answers are starting to come, albeit slowly. I’ve test driven a new car: not one, unfortunately, that I will be buying in the near future, but one that holds out the promise of a cleaner tomorrow. I’ll tell you more next time.

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